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School Leader Asks Out

Transfer Sought After Difficult Year At Classical Magnet

May 27, 2005
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

The acting principal of Hartford's Simpson-Waverly Classical Magnet School, where racial tensions have simmered all year, has asked for a transfer, officials said Thursday.

Dee Cole, a veteran of 19 years in the city's schools, is expected to be reassigned from Simpson-Waverly after one year as principal of the award-winning school in Hartford's North End.

Cole, who is white, has been the target of complaints from some black teachers and parents at the school, where minority students, most of them black, make up nearly the entire school population. Among the complaints was the hiring of white teachers to fill all nine vacancies at the school this year.

Cole took over as principal last fall, following the retirement of the school's popular and successful longtime principal, James Thompson, who is black. About one-third of the school's teachers also retired, leaving Cole to rebuild a staff that had transformed the school into a model that had been cited by state and federal officials.

Cole also faced the task of converting the neighborhood elementary school, which had been named a federal Blue Ribbon School, into a magnet school drawing students from the city and suburbs.

Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry told Simpson-Waverly's staff Thursday afternoon of Cole's request for a transfer.

"I know it was a difficult and challenging year. I had hoped there would be a different outcome," Henry said later Thursday.

The school system had hired consultants to try to mediate the disagreements, but Cole decided it was best to make a change, said Henry, who has supported Cole.

A story in The Courant earlier this year outlined some of the racial tensions at the school, including complaints that a picture of a former black principal had been temporarily taken down in the library, that a black teacher had not been invited to a school assembly and that teachers, both black and white, perceived racial slights because they felt they had been left out of planning for certain events.

In that news story, Cole said the school system had not sent any black applicants to interview for teaching jobs but agreed that failing to fill vacancies with a diverse staff was a mistake.

"I know some of the issues were magnified," Henry said Thursday. "It was a sad moment to see [Cole] make that request. She indicated she wanted to remove the distraction. I thanked her for her integrity and tenacity."

Cole could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Henry said he hoped to name a replacement within weeks and pledged to find a spot for Cole, whom he called "a true instructional leader."

"We'll make use of her skills," he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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